In the end, it all went just as expected.
After Canelo Alvarez failed two drug tests in February for the banned performance-enhancing substance clenbuterol and his mega HBO PPV rematch with unified middleweight world champion Gennady Golovkin on May 5 in Las Vegas was canceled, many wondered what kind punishment the Nevada State Athletic Commission would dole out, if any.
When the positive drug tests first came to light, there were many who had not done their homework on the commission rules and figured Alvarez would skate with a slap on the wrist and the fight would go forward as planned. I was not one of them because it was obvious, after two minutes of reading the commission's rules regarding banned substances (which were overhauled in late 2016), that the panel would have no choice but to sit Alvarez down for at least six months.
And that is exactly what the commissioners did on Wednesday in an unsurprising 5-0 vote at its monthly meeting. There was no drama, no nothing. Alvarez didn't appear. Nobody from Golden Boy Promotions appeared. They had worked out a deal ahead of time, so only Canelo's attorney, Ricardo Cestero, was on hand via telephone from the Alvarez side to confirm that they had agreed to an adjudication agreement beforehand. The whole thing lasted only a few minutes.
But make no mistake: This is a real punishment, one that Alvarez deserved for having clenbuterol in his system. He admitted it was there but continues to claim it was from eating contaminated beef -- a common problem for athletes in Mexico -- even though there is no proof of that. It just as well could have been that he was using clenbuterol on purpose to gain an edge and got caught. We'll never know.
Regardless of why it was in Alvarez's system, Nevada rules call for a punishment no matter how a banned substance got into his body. But because Alvarez is a first-time offender and the commission said he cooperated during its investigation, he got leniency. The commission could have suspended him for up to two years.
But the commission went for the six months I expected him to get, because that is the typical punishment for a first-time offender who tests positive for clenbuterol. Under the deal, Alvarez will take a legitimate hit because he will miss out on an eight-figure payday on May 5, which is no small matter. He was looking at raking in probably at least $25 million.
He will still make that kind of cash when he fights this fall after the suspension is lifted on Aug. 17 (six months from the date of the first positive test), but the suspension likely means he will fight only once this year instead of twice. That means he will earn half the income this year that he expected to earn. That is punishment indeed.
But the commission didn't give him such a hefty suspension that it would lay waste to his career or seriously damage Nevada's ability to lure him to Las Vegas for the inevitable Golovkin rematch, which will mean nine figures in revenue for the local economy, as was the case for their fight last September.
In other words, the suspension hit the sweet spot for all involved. Alvarez (49-1-2, 34 KOs) got off as lightly as possible but still paid a hefty price. And the commission handled it all the right way. It took Alvarez's positive drug test seriously, conducted a legitimate investigation and then got the punishment right while still making sure the rematch with GGG can still take place in September.
No, there won't be a big Cinco de Mayo fight in Las Vegas this year, like there usually is, but there sure will be one on Mexican Independence Day weekend in September, assuming Golovkin (37-0-1, 33 KOs) does what he is expected to do, which is to beat up on poor Vanes Martirosyan (36-3-1, 21 KOs), the undeserving challenger/late substitute/sacrificial lamb who is likely going to feel GGG's powerful wrath come May 5 in the rejiggered HBO fight at the StubHub Center in Carson, California.
Golovkin did not want to go a year between bouts by waiting for Alvarez to be eligible to fight, so he and his team did everything in their power to make sure a new fight could be arranged for May 5 against a non-threatening opponent, and that was accomplished by signing Martirosyan, who is a) coming off a loss; b) coming off a two-year layoff; c) moving up in weight; and d) has never beaten a top opponent. But at least this way Golovkin won't have to waste a training camp and can stay sharp, even if he is taking a huge pay cut to fight Martirosyan.
So all's well that ends well: Alvarez got legitimately punished -- but not too severely -- and even had minor knee surgery the other day to take care of a small issue since he won't be doing anything for a few months. The commission and its executive director, Bob Bennett, did an excellent job handling a tough situation. And GGG still gets to fight without seriously jeopardizing the big bucks rematch with Canelo.
See you in September.